'EA Sports UFC' nails its latest foray into mixed martial arts

Associated PressJune 26, 2014 

Game Review-EA Sports UFC

UFC competitor Eddie Wineland in a scene from EA Sports UFC.




    'EA Sports UFC'

    Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One

    Publisher: Electronic Arts

    Developer: Electronic Arts

    ESRB rating: T

LOS ANGELES — After the closing of UFC Undisputed publisher THQ, it has been a few years since gamers have been able to set foot in the virtual octagon of the most famous mixed martial arts brand. The ability to grapple with a video game controller is back, this time from an entirely new game publisher for the latest generation of consoles.

EA Sports UFC marks the first UFC game from Electronic Arts, which has long dominated the sports genre with series including Madden NFL, FIFA and Tiger Woods PGA Tour, although it's not its first jab at a MMA game. It released the awkward EA Sports MMA in 2010.

This time, EA has the cachet of the UFC and the power of next-generation consoles on its side.

The mostly robust roster of almost 100 fighters in EA Sports UFC features veterans including Anderson Silva and female fighters including Ronda Rousey. Bruce Lee is included as an unlockable player. The artists at developer EA Canada have meticulously re-created the scrappers — right down to their tattoos, body hair and cauliflowered ears.

A similar level of detail also is available in the game's career mode, where players can create custom fighters from scratch, adding such tidbits as nicknames, hometowns and moves before taking them from The Ultimate Fighter reality TV competition to a possible six-figure contract and eventually all the way to the UFC Hall of Fame.

With seemingly spontaneous commentary coming from Joe Rogan and Mike Goldberg, and fighters' flesh deteriorating as bouts progress, the audio-visual presentation of EA Sports UFC is fluidly flawless. The game's controls — much like the actual sport of MMA — are equally accurate. They require precision, not floundering.

However, EA Sports UFC isn't a total knockout.

It lends itself to the game's realism, but there's a steep learning curve for navigating among striking, clinching, wrestling and grappling, which relies on an odd octagon-shaped mini-game where quick flicks of the thumb sticks block submissions. It's unfortunate that there wasn't a smarter solution — or smarter virtual opponents.

The artificial intelligence of the challengers is often a cinch to overcome, making the game feel more like a fantasy than a simulation. It truly feels alive only when played against other humans, either in person or online. After you've coached a few fighters from rookies to retirees, there's little reason to replay the career mode.

Sure, for MMA devotees, EA Sports UFC is a must. Despite some daffy responses from the computer-controlled opponents and a too-nimble career mode, EA Sports has laid a striking foundation for a new sports series, but more casual fighting fans will want to wait for Super Smash Bros.

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